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‘We need rain’: Mexican farmers devastated by northern drought – Reuters Canada

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  • Cows and donkeys die due to lack of water
  • Mexico is suffering one of the worst droughts in decades
  • Stressed farmers long for rain

COYAME, Mexico, Aug 11 (Reuters) – Hicterio Torres Franco’s animals are dying: without water in one of the worst droughts Mexico has seen in 30 years.

In the distance lies one of his donkeys, its carcass watched by vultures. About 19 cows also died.

“It’s been a big loss,” laments Torres, whose farm is next to the El Granero dam in the northern state of Chihuahua.

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Just 10% of Mexico’s dams are now full, with many seeing levels dropping below half or lower, according to official data.

July was the second hottest month in Mexico since 1953, according to the national weather service, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) in some areas last month.

Agricultural towns like Coyame, which have no access to groundwater and are almost entirely dependent on the region’s shrinking dam, have been devastated.

The city’s livestock has been depleted, harvests disrupted, and fishing has ended, forcing some workers to move to cities.

In recent weeks, rainfall from the US monsoon has provided some relief in Chihuahua, but farmers say it is not enough.

“Before it was good… but half of us (fishermen) are now over here”, says Jesus Gerardo, who has been fishing in the area for 15 years. “It’s not the first time I’ve seen the dam sink, but never to this level.”

In mid-July, the Mexican government declared a national emergency, and announced initiatives to prevent companies such as Coca Cola and Heineken from extracting so much water in the north.

There have also been water caps on households in the northern industrial city of Monterrey.

However, the crisis has continued, sparking protests and roadblocks around Monterrey.

‘abandoned’ Water experts such as Rafael Sanchez, who works at the Autonomous University of Chapingo, have increasingly spoken out about the risks to remote agricultural areas.

“In some states, irrigation is virtually disappearing due to lack of rainfall,” he said last year, noting empty reservoirs and reduced water transfers to farms.

Residents of Chihuahua say they need more help, including an economic fund that implements the state of emergency.

Gerardo, the fisherman, said that pleas for authorities to invest in new pipes to ensure better water storage and transport from the dam have been ignored.

“The federal government should show more interest in this area, we have been completely abandoned,” he said.

The economic devastation in Coyame could still be felt for a long time, with only 30% of their next harvest planted.

Rivers have dried up to reveal cracked beds. Fields that should be rummaged are bare. The earth is so dry that young crops wither. Surviving cattle are bony, their ribs sticking out.

Rancher Julio Cesar Arzola says there’s one simple answer: “We need rain.”

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Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez, Additional reporting by Isabel Woodford, Writing by Isabel Woodford, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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